The 30th year of the band's existence would turn out to have many wonderful twists and turns. And some not so wonderful…
In early spring I had to let Dan Faucett go. When I did that, Shaun Sanders also left the band. It was a very stressful time for me as the summer was shaping up to be one of our busiest in years. As well as that, I was putting together the 30th Anniversary Concert which was to be held at The Sanderson Centre in Brantford and finishing off the Helix History DVD: No Rest for the Wicked and the Rockin' in My Outer Space CD. I had less than a month to replace two guitar players. What was I going to do?
Enter the picture Rainer and Cindy Wiechmann. I had met Rainer & his wife Cindy when we toured Newfoundland in '87. They were in the opening band KAOS. Years later (2001, in fact) we would cross paths again through one of my students (Wane Blais of the band Dwll) who was doing recording at Rainer's Mole Studios here in London, Ontario. I made a deal with Rainer to record three songs which eventually led to an entire album - Rockin' In My Outer Space. Over the course of the recording of the CD Rainer and I developed a relationship and eventually Rainer started playing guitar and keyboards in several places. Cindy had sang on a couple of tracks as well, but it wasn't until our first practice with the new line-up that the idea of asking her to join even crossed my mind. As soon as I heard her sing back-up and play percussion and acoustic guitar, I knew she would be a perfect fit.
The last member to join was Jim Lawson. We had known Jim from Cherry Smash, one of Bill Seip's other bands from back in the day. Jim came highly recommended by many people we knew and he was into doing the gig. Jim's mother had just recently passed away and joining Helix seemed like it had come along at just the right time for both of us.
It would be a crazy fun-filled summer with exciting gigs, the best being the 30th Anniversary Concert. At the 11th hour E.M.I. decided to join the party and asked if I would like to see the concert released on DVD for a certain royalty rate. I couldn't believe our good luck. E.M.I. also decided to release a 30th Anniversary CD entitled “30 Years of Helix: Rockin' You For 30 Years”. With the help of Mike Sheltema and Sly Vallee I ended up designing the CD's cover and inside sleeve and eventually was asked by Warren Stewart and Rob Brooks of E.M.I. to take an active part in putting this CD together.
Our first gig with the new band would be with Sass Jordan and Chilliwack, two great Canadian bands we had never played with before. It was at an outdoor concert in Strathroy called Turkeyfest and we drew around 4,000 people. We followed that up the very next week by playing Newfoundland for the first time in almost ten years. Once again there was a large crowd to see us and the band was a roaring success. Our St. John show ended with me being “screeched in”, which involved kissing a Cod and drinking a shot of Screech. Several days later we hit the stage at The Palamino Club in Winnipeg and two days after that Rockin' The Valley in Craven, Saskatchewan to another crowd of 4,000. There we played with Finger 11 and SCUM 41.
Throughout all of this I was working on the history DVD with Adam Hislop of Northpole Media and we went right down to the wire, finishing it off the week of the 30th Anniversary concert!
The 30th Anniversary Concert on July 17th at the Sanderson Centre in Brantford is a story in itself. The whole day turned out to be magic: Chris James of Apex Sound brought in a fantastic show and coupled with the film company Farmhouse Productions and Geoff Turnball (whom E.M.I. had hired) the DVD turned out even better than expected.
We had a couple of scares during the day: At one point during the afternoon the fire department showed up and closed the place down because the smoke machine set off the fire alarms. Then, 10 minutes before the beginning of the show a huge lightning storm knocked out the power nearly dropping all the pre-programed light plots from the computer but in the end nothing could stop us. At the end of the show Warren Stewart presented me a 30th Anniversary Plaque courtesy of E.M.I./Capitol Records.
Many fans came in from out-of-province to see the show and a few even stayed the next week to see us play with none other than Alice Cooper. Our first show with Cooper was at The Chrysler Theatre in Windsor four days after the anniversary concert. The show sold out. Three days later we played once again with Alice, only this time in Harris Park in London in front of 5,000 fans.
In total, 2004 would see the band release three new CDs: Rockin' In My Outer Space (our first full studio CD since 1994's “It's a Business Doing Pleasure”), Never Trust Anyone Over 30 (an anniversary CD primarily composed of songs from Helix “indie” albums plus unreleased tracks) and Rockin' You For 30 Years (the “best-of” the E.M.I./Capitol years plus unreleased tracks). We released two DVDS: No Rest for the Wicked: The Helix History DVD; and The Helix 30th Anniversary Concert, which was filmed and released by E.M.I. As well I also released a Christmas CD entitled “Raisin' the Roof on St. Mary's” to help raise money for my local parish. It was indeed a busy year.
2004 also saw me reach the end of writing my autobiography “Rock You”. I started putting up two chapters a week with my update on Planet Helix and fan reaction was immediate.